Trails don’t manage themselves. They don’t shed water by themselves, they can’t shake off debris after a storm, and they can’t tell people not to ride if it’s raining.
The main way a trail system is managed is through impassioned volunteers. In Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Recreational Forest, land managers rely on a number of user groups who work together to maintain trail standards during a time when the trail maintenance budget is slim.
The two cycling groups that maintain our biking trails are Pisgah Area Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) and Upstate SORBA. The Pisgah chapter members are largely Brevard and Asheville area residents, while the upstate chapter members live just down the mountain in the Greenville area.
Many of the area trails are multi-use and require not only routine maintenance, but land managers also rely on volunteer organizations to educate the public about responsible use of the forest. Sometimes education is as simple as letting people know that they aren’t the only ones in the woods, but it can also come in the form of skills clinics for new riders, trail maintenance seminars and trail etiquette practice.
In late 2017 and early 2018, Pisgah Area SORBA (PAS) membership grew steadily with a fresh burst of good energy towards maintenance and protecting what we have. Official announcements have been made about more grant dollars being pursued for trail projects like the Big Creek connector and the Black Mountain reroute. (See the Trail Development story in this publication for more details.)
In 2016, PAS recorded 3,000+ volunteer hours with 30+ workdays in Pisgah, Bent Creek and DuPont, including seven “Big Dig” days and participation Pisgah Pride. The group worked with USFS to make Bennett Gap a year-round mountain bike trail, and started the Adopt-a-Trail program, with The Hub becoming the first participant by taking responsibility for maintaining Bennett Gap. PAS also procured a $55K RTP grant awarded for additional work in Pisgah and a $5K REI grant for the Hendersonville Bike Park.
In 2014, PAS and the mountain bike community teamed up to reinvent Lower Black Mountain trail, which some riders had started to call the “longest dual slalom run in the south.” With the help and guidance of local trail contractors Woody Keen and Shrimper Khare, the famed lower black slalom run matured and became sustainable, while still being a ton of fun. Members from both SORBA chapters got dirty to bring some much-needed love to a classic Pisgah descent.
Both groups do a significant amount of trail work and need public support. Without these groups, trail access in western North Carolina and the upstate of South Carolina would dwindle. Visit www.pisgahareasorba.org and www.upstate sorba.com to learn more about how you can join others in giving back to the trails.
The Pisgah Conservancy
Pisgah National Forest went for many years without any kind of volunteer organization, but thanks to one spirited former camp counselor, that has changed. John Cottingham grew up attending camp here, and eventually came back in his formative years to work as a camp counselor at Camp Summit in DuPont. Over the years he watched the deteriorating trails wear away from overuse and limited maintenance budgets.
Pisgah National Forest is the most visited national forest in the national inventory. The most visited national park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, is accessed at many points through Pisgah. While the number of visitors is overwhelming for everyone from the rangers to local emergency services, the annual funding in recent years for trail maintenance has been around $90,000, which, according to Cottingham’s estimates, equates to approximately $235 per mile of trail.
Contracted trail maintenance can cost as much $15,000 per mile of trail, while construction of new trails or relocations can cost much more. To Cottingham’s eyes, those numbers don’t add up, and he believes the funding available is far less than needed to maintain the trails to National Quality Standards.
According to Cathy Dowd, the public affairs officer for national forests in North Carolina, in 2016 the Pisgah Ranger district had $10 million in deferred maintenance for bridges, buildings, trails, roads and various other infrastructure. Statewide, the four national forests – Croatan, Uwharrie, Pisgah and Nantahala, had a combined $67 million in deferred maintenance.
To help address a backlog of maintenance needs in the forest, the Pisgah Conservancy began organizing the annual Pisgah Pride day. In 2016 and 2017, the event attracted approximately 300 volunteers to help clear ditches and drainages, remove invasive species, improve sight lines, clean up trash and much more. This year, Pisgah Pride Day is scheduled for Saturday, May 18. Be sure to mark your calendars and come out to give a little love to the forest.
To learn more about the Pisgah Conservancy and to become a volunteer, visit www.pisgah conservancy.org.
Friends of DuPont Forest
Friends of DuPont Forest is a membership organization dedicated to the preservation of DuPont State Recreation Forest, home of more than 10,000 acres of forest, trails and waterfalls near Brevard. Friends of DuPont volunteers gave more than 700 hours in 2017 to maintain the trails in DuPont. The volunteer Litter Pick Up crew kept DuPont beautiful in 2017 and removed more than 100 bags of trash from the road ways and trails. Friends of DuPont was proud to sponsor more than 10 special educational events in 2017 including a Wild Life Lecture Series, wildflower hike, history tours and more.
On September 22, 2018, the organization will launch the first ever DuPont Forest Festival, a celebration of the beauty, adventure, and wildness of DuPont State Recreational Forest. For information and to become a member, visit www.dupont forest.com. Your money will go directly toward improving and maintaining the trails, assisting the N.C. Forest Service with special projects, educational events, and making improvements at the visitor center.